Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and Michael Sheen count amongst the world's most renowned and gifted actors. Yet they have something else in common: they all come from the south Wales steel town of Port Talbot. What is it about this industrial community that has produced such superstars? Angela V. John, who also hails from the town, explores the lives of these acting legends before they became famous. She presents their emergence as part of a rich culture and commitment to drama long embedded in the town's history. She reveals too a host of other famous Port Talbot faces, from early stars such as Ronald Lewis and Ivor Emmanuel to more recent performers like Rob Brydon and Di Botcher, along with a cluster of young actors starting to make their mark on London's West End stage, and on the big and small screen. Her account culminates in the spectacular three-day event of Easter 2011 when Michael Sheen resurrected Port Talbot's pride and hopes through the unforgettable theatrical experience of The Passion.
This book puts centre-stage the shifting fortunes of a town, its actors and, crucially, its enablers - those unsung heroes who helped to nurture talent in schools, youth centres and youth theatre. Using extensive interviews, it provides a refreshing way of looking at the history of a community and a profession, as well as casting new and unexpected light on the backgrounds of its most famous stars.
Angela V. John is a widely published historian and biographer living in Pembrokeshire but originally from Port Talbot. She held the chair in History at the University of Greenwich, London for many years and is currently an honorary professor at Swansea University. Previous publications include the award-winning Coalmining Women (Cambridge University Press) and a biography of the Ibsenite actress, suffragette and novelist, Elizabeth Robins: Staging A Life 1862-1952 (Routledge and The History Press). Her most recent book is Turning The Tide: The Life of Lady Rhondda (Parthian). She is a vice-president and former chair of Llafur: The Welsh People's History Society. www.angelavjohn.com